On a recent transport to Germany we were stopped by the Police. And I mean stopped! Last time, in December 2012, we were already parked at the drop off location and were unloading the cats and dogs when a concerned security guard from an industrial unit notified the Police as he was concerned we were selling the animals.
This time however we were well and truly stopped. A unmarked Police Car apparently spent a couple of hours waiting for us to pass, and then followed us for something like 20km. As we approached the drop off location three Police Cars ‘requested’ that we stop!
So there we were at the side of the road with three Police Cars and and an unmarked car. The plain clothed policeman introduced himself and said that he believed we were transporting animals without the required TRACES documentation.
Appears that we had been under surveillance since October (check out the October Newsletter for background), and on the Friday before we set off he had contacted the local Government Vet who said that no TRACES documentation has been submitted.
‘Problem’ was that he made the enquiry at 1pm. The inspection hadn’t finished until 11am and the vet in Spain had then gone on to another inspection. So while the German policeman was making his enquiry the Spanish vet was probably at lunch, and while the German policeman was at home in the evening having his dinner, the Spanish vet was updating the TRACES system. (Does highlight just how far the EU has to go though if they actually want to have a common trading environment as different cultures and work practices need to be taken into account.)
Anyway there we are. 5.30am in a cold Germany, surrounded by four police cars being told we didn’t have the TRACES documentation. What to do? well the first thing was to produce the TRACES documentation for all the cats and dogs (except for two dogs that were being transported to Holland and Belgium under the PETS Scheme as their owners had relocated).
The Police then inspected the van, took a lot of photographs and videos, and called the Government Vet, who said they would arrive in 45 minutes. Which they did!
The Government vet then inspected the van, the cages, the loading of the cats and dogs, their access to water, the fact that we had food on board. She checked the microchips and passports on a random sample of the cats and dogs and checked these against the TRACES documentation. They checked the certificate for the van and myself, and my driving license and vehicle registration.
At the end of it all? NO PROBLEMS at all. In fact I would go so far as to say that the vet was really impressed that:
It was also interesting (aka good to have confirmation), that in their view small and medium dogs, when transported in cages like ours, are best not in the cages alone as they need the security and comfort of other dogs. They also confirmed that cats should ONLY be transported in proper cat boxes and NOT loose in larger cages with litter trays etc.
So what does this mean for ALStrays Transport? That is simple: NOTHING. We are proud of the service that we provide and that we insist that re-homed cats and dogs are transported under TRACES. It would be tempting to say that we felt vindicated against previous acquisitions and attempts to discredit us, but that is not our style (nor would we provide the names of other transport companies that continue to transport re-homed cats and dogs under the PETS Scheme when asked).
The Police said that they would be writing to the person that reported us to inform then that we were absolutely and totally conforming to the requirements to transport re-homed cats and dogs under TRACES.
It was interesting talking to the Police to hear that they have been reading the site (if I was another transport company I would assume they are doing the same to you). In the personal opinion of the policeman that stopped us he felt that Germany already had enough cats and dogs. He did say that he thought Spanish dogs were friendlier than German ones, and he loved the Galgo Español (Prince) that we had on board.
I would like to say that I thought he Police (and Vet) were excellent towards the animals. I suspect that from the moment they stopped us and saw that we had the TRACES documents and the cats and dogs were not packed into the van but all had adequate space, water and warmth they knew we were OK, but they put the welfare of the animals first. They allowed us to keep the engine running. They allowed us to open the doors to ensure that no animal had escaped. They only requested that the doors be open when absolutely necessary.
Germany does have an issue with the illegal importation of cats and dogs from Spain, Hungary etc (again we were asked if we sold the aniamls) but it is very clear that ALStrays Transport is not part of that problem.
We have been saying for some time now that rescue centres must use TRACES for a re-homed cat or dog, and you would be amazed how many continue to tell us that we are wrong and it isn’t needed.
Makes you wonder though how many of them would have the confidence that if their transporter was stopped as we were (and I am convinced more will be) their cats and dogs would now be in their new homes, or would they have been turned back, impounded, fined?
Despite the 90 minute delay while we were inspected (and the inevitable delay for the first couple of drop offs) we manged to be no more than 30 minutes late for any of the other transports. EVERY cat and dog was delivered safe, sound and with the correct paperwork.
That is all that matters to us.